Sheila was convinced she had heard something that night but Jack had told her it was nothing, just the wind blowing through the trees outside the terraced 3-storey house they shared with 14 other flats. They didn't know their neighbour; no one knew anyone in their rooming house unless they shared a room. Sheila and Jack lived on the street-side of the house and their room was okay if a little bit too small for a couple who had been together for nearly three years. They would occasionally argue and Jack would inevitably have to go and seek refuge in a nearby pub but the real problem they had with the place was the weird guy next door. They would occasionally see him prowling the stairwell when they'd get in at night and his perpetual reaction was to glare at them as they walked past, quickly, on their way up to their room.
Sheila was however convinced that something was going on, that their neighbour had something to hide and she wanted to find out what that was; the night before she had convinced herself that no good was afoot. That the noise she had heard was something being dragged down the narrow corridor to the stairway accompanied by a few strenuous moans. Her most paranoid fear was that it was their neighbour dragging the body of his latest victim away and that when he got back from hiding it, burying it so deep and so far away that no one would ever find it, they would be next. Her mind turned to what they could use to protect themselves against any potential intruder. It didn't help that they weren't exactly homemakers or sports types and she decided their best option would be a combination of a big English dictionary or a metal bust of Lenin's head to the head with the potential conclusion of a bread knife. It really was the best she could think of, she knew the best idea would be to call the police but they never came promptly, not to addresses like theirs anyway.
'Why would anyone be going out at 2.30 in the morning unless they had something to hide? It's not as if there is anywhere to go around here at that time of night' she thought as she failed to get to sleep for the rest of the night. As soon as she woke the next morning she told Jack that she was going to call the police but he was still convinced she was wasting her time and was letting her paranoia get the better of her. 'Well I'm going to do it anyway,' she retorted finally before picking up the phone and dialling 111, the non-emergency number, a compromise they had both agreed too. It took them two hours before they showed up and once they discovered there was no body, they showed little interest. The officers convinced themselves it was nothing more than the deranged paranoid ramblings of a middle-aged woman until they entered the flat. 'What about those cards?' she asked pointing to a series lying all over the neighbour's floor. The cop looked down, leaning in real close, pulling on a pair of gloves, and beginning a close examination. 'Hmm, interesting, I will look into these. They read like horror stories but they almost seem a bit too real. Very odd, very odd indeed.'
It was then Sheila began to tell the cop of all the strange behaviour of their neighbour and the cop concluded more investigation was needed. There was no post for the room and so the older officer called into the records department and got a proper ID from them. He told them to place an APB on their suspect and so the search for their strange neighbour truly began. In a quiet town, it was all the news people could ever talk about as rumours began to circulate; he was a Satanist who was into virgin sacrifice, he was a cannibal who ate his victims alive, the stories grew stranger the longer the search went on until one night it all came together. Sheila and Jack were sat in watching TV on a Tuesday night when Sheila suddenly had a horrible premonition that something really bad was just about to happen. 'Jack, he's back! Listen to those heavy boots of his coming up the stairs. He's finally coming to get us! What are we going to do' she wailed hysterically. She leaned over him and called the police whilst Jack grabbed his Lenin bust that his parents had bought him and which sat on one of his bookshelves; a whack on the head with that would pretty much subdue any intruder. The loud knock on the door filled them both with a sense of true horror, it even sounded menacing and Jack knew the moment of truth had arrived. As the door flexed against the pounding it was receiving Sheila and Jack took cover in the corner of their room, cowering in fear for their lives when suddenly, as if from nowhere, a fleet of police cars pulled up outside and at last they knew they were safe as they heard a loud procession of feet charging up the stairs. The next thing they saw was the police dragging their neighbour away to a waiting car. He had that same glare he always greeted them with on his face and Sheila hoped that it was the last time she would ever have to see it.
After that life pretty much returned to normal, a new neighbour moved in and nothing was ever said about the person she had replaced. The news slowly filtered through to the press, local and national, and they soon discovered the true horror of the guy who had lived next door. He confessed to over 40 murders and all were committed during his time in the flat next door.
MEMORIES OF TRANCAS
Wednesday afternoons were for the vast majority of people a time for work, a time when the week turned from looking back on the last weekend to looking forward to the one coming up. For Jack though life was never normal and, as usual, he was sat at home, a little bit bored and a whole lot stoned. Wednesday afternoons for Jack meant a chance to unwind, not that he had anything to particularly unwind from, and a chance to let his mind wander. The night before Jack had watched one of his favorite movies, The Big Lebowski, and it had reminded him of a city he had visited many years before, the city of angels on the west coast, la-la land in all its glory. Despite already being sufficiently stoned to enjoy a weird trip Jack decided to roll another joint, to really push the bounds of reality and see what happened. The smoke began to take hold and then suddenly something changed. An odd feeling swept over him and the air had a strange texture that made his skin feel fresh. It was almost as if he was outside and then as his eyes opened for the first time a panic gripped him immediately.
He was suddenly out on the Pacific Coast Highway in a red 1957 Corvette with the roof down driving north towards Malibu; he was however still wearing the same clothes as at home, a t-shirt, jeans and most bizarrely a pair of beat-up slippers that looked as if they hadn't seen the light of day for years. In all the time that Jack had smoked weed he'd never had a trip like this before and when he felt his grip tightening around the steering wheel to instigate a manoeuvre he couldn't quite believe it when the car followed his instruction; it felt more real than any other trip he'd taken. The heightened sense of reality made Jack fearful for he had never even had a drivers lesson let alone been licensed to drive any kind of vehicle. It was then something very strange indeed happened. Jack looked up in the front mirror and saw a reflection that was not him; it seemed his reflection was of a man he had no idea about. He reached down into the stranger's pocket and picked his wallet with ease before opening it up to examine any form of identification he could find. He got lucky; this guy was full of customer cards, a driver's licence, and several bank cards. Looking at the licence, the one thing with any form of the photograph on it, he couldn't quite believe what he read: "Mr Tommy King, Philosopher of Music CEO/ Big Time Records 01-312-555-8712 4762 Pacific Coast Highway" He looked in the mirror and realised he had complete control over this wealthy sack of shit he'd had the good fortune to land inside. To all intent and purposes he was Tommy King, he was big-time record executive with the head of every major music and media company in his Blackberry; he always refused to upgrade, he clung to it as a time when his company ruled the world and he could call the White House and talk to the actual President for longer than two whole minutes without being fobbed off. It was a different time now though, profits were shrinking to alarming levels and some executives would have to be laid off soon if there wasn't a sudden shift in the market.
Jack kept his eyes on the road whilst looking at the number on the houses whizzing by, they grew at random rates and he sensed he should start to slow down at around the 4000 block and work out how to navigate his way across the traffic without ruining his beautiful car but then it happened, his finger jutted for a button he'd never seen before and by some miracle the car was guided into an underground lair, just like Batman's enclave. Climbing out of the car a computer voice greeted him and as he took the lift up to the ground floor a sudden shift happened in Jack's psyche. Was he really Tommy King? Was this really happening? What was real?
Walking into the main hallway he looked out at the ocean before he was greeted by a beautiful woman who immediately switched off the TV and turned to him. The beautiful view of Trancas took him back to the day he had visited this place previously and as she moved over to kiss him, to welcome him home he grabbed her and moved over to the balcony that looked out at the beautiful beach, a place that he often fantasised about whilst stuck in his hovel of a flat on the other side of the world. It took less than ten minutes before they were as one and Jack was living out his wildest dreams with a woman he had no idea about; who she was, how he'd got here, it was all a mystery but as he came inside her he could feel himself begin to fall and when he landed his eyes opened and suddenly he knew it was all over.
The dream had gone and as he looked down he realised he was back at home and his tin, which had previously been full of high-grade weed, was lying on his living room floor. With the realisation that it had all been an insane hallucination Jack sat back down on his chair, after of course collecting his tin and the contents of it from the floor, and was at least happy that he could smoke the joint and not be chased off by a security guard this time which is what had happened the last time he had been to Trancas.
Bio: Bradford Middleton was born in London in 1971 but eventually found himself in Brighton in 2007 and began writing because he knew no one and had no money. He’s accrued nearly 300 unique publications so far, including a novel from New Pulp Press and a couple of poetry chapbooks from Crisis Chronicles Press and Holy & Intoxicated Press. His work is dotted all over the internet and in several magazines and journals. He tweets occasionally @beatnikbraduk and is on facebook at